Headaches are annoying, painful, and inconvenient, especially when you have things to do and places to be. We often blame a sore neck, posture, or other various reasons as the source of pain however, the real cause of your headache could in fact be TMJ!
What is TMJ?
TMJ also known as the temporomandibular joint, relates to TMD temporomandibular joint disorder, or more simply put, refers to a jaw headache. Your TMJ is the joint located in front of the ear that connects your jawbone to your skull, though you may have never heard of your TMJ it is a crucial component of your jaw function.
With one located on each side of your face, this clever little joint controls the movements required to eat, speak, and produce facial expressions, therefore without your TMJ you won’t be smiling about anything!
Everyone can develop a TMJ headache at any age, though women are specifically more prone and are diagnosed with TMD 5 times more frequently than men. It is important nonetheless, for everyone to understand what the cause is and what symptoms to look out for.
Causes and Symptoms of TMJ
So, we know the TMJ is essentially the controller of how you move your jaw, but how can it turn into an unwanted source of pain? Built up tension in the TMJ can produce pain that eventually leads to that enemy known as a headache. The following can contribute to the causes of tension in the TMJ:
- An injury – injuries in or around the jaw area, especially common in athletes.
- Wear and tear – conditions such as osteoarthritis can often lead to wear and tear of the joint.
- Stress – stress will often cause teeth grinding and jaw clenching, resulting in jaw tension.
- Dental issues – new fillings or dentures can contribute to an uneven bite, again producing tightness in the jaw.
- Diseases – there are various disease such as gout that can also be a cause.
The above causes can produce multiple symptoms that can help to diagnose whether you are experiencing signs of TMD. Pain is the number one symptom and can vary in its severity but is usually a dull aching pain that can refer to other areas such as the teeth, ears, and face, eventually building up to a headache.
Additional symptoms include:
- Difficulty opening and closing the jaw
- Locking of the jaw – the jaw locks into place when opening or closing
- Tenderness in jaw muscles
- Jaw joints making noise – e.g. clicking when chewing
- Pain or discomfort when eating or biting
Treatments for TMJ
For less severe cases of TMD, symptoms can get better with time and without treatment, controlling factors in your daily routine that contribute, like posture and stress levels will help to prevent TMD pain. If pain persists it is best to see your local GP, dentist, or physiotherapist, they can more accurately diagnose and treat the pain appropriately.
Dental treatments specifically, can involve mouthguards or oral splints that will assist with prevention of teeth grinding, jaw tension and clenching, relieving muscles and diminishing TMJ headaches.
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